Day At The Track

MacKinnon upsets the apple cart

09:01 AM 08 Apr 2017 NZST
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Jack MacKinnon
HRNZ photo

One of New Zealand’s best trainers of standardbred horseflesh also knows how to bring out the best in the people that work for him.

Robert Dunn’s stableemployee in Pukekohe, Jack MacKinnon, has come of age this season under his boss’s tutelage, and that was clearly evident at Alexandra Park last night (Friday).

The 21-year-old former Mount Albert Grammar student displayed his growing prowess in the sulky when he got two longshots home for the powerful Robert Dunn and Steve Telfer/Chris Garlic stables.

MacKinnon drove the Dunn trained roughie Cobra Banner to win the 11th race by one-and-a-quarter lengths - at odds of $61.50 and $10.30. 

He was the 11th favourite of 11 resulting in the highest winning dividend at Alexandra Park since the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained Commander Paris (Todd Mitchell) paid $73.50 and $12.90 (10th favourite of 10) on March 11 last year.

MacKinnon also drove the Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick trained Check In to win the sixth event at odds of $15.70 and $3.80. They won by one-and-a-half lengths and were the sixth favourites of 11.

“I’ve been really lucky that top trainers from top stables like Robert and Steve/Chris have believed in me. Most of my 11 wins this year have been for them and they are both in the top three North Island trainers.

“Working for Robert has really bettered my driving and I think I have improved. He is an amazing trainer. He pays so much attention to detail and spends so much time on every horse. He is meticulous and you never stop learning from someone like him,” MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon has driven 11 winners this season and looks certain to beat his personal best of 12 he set last year. He is currently four wins behind the North Island’s leading junior, Dylan Ferguson.

But MacKinnon’s two wins at ‘The Park’ last night have seen him close to within two victories of the now New South Wales-based junior,Sean Grayling, who stillleads the ‘Alexandra Park Junior Driving Premiership’.

“I would love to win the Alexandra premiership again. It was great to win that last year. It’s the premier track in the north and we all love to win there, but being the top North Island junior means a little more to me.

“If I can achieve that, then the Alexandra Park titleshould take care of itself. The ultimate would be to keep learning and then win the New Zealand Junior Championship before I enter the open ranks,” MacKinnon said.

And speaking of ‘drivers on fire’, Cambridge reinsman David Butcher increased his lead at the top of the Alexandra Park Driving Premiership from 20 to 24 wins last night.

He drove four winners on the 12-strong card and his 53 wins this season now sees him in fifth place on the national driving premiership.

The ‘Butcher quartet’ started in the first event when the with the 5-year-old Sundon mare he trains - Sunset Peak – proved too smart, and then he nailed an early hatrick behind the Telfer/Garlick and Lew Driver trained Rocknroll Princess and Gentleman Sir in races two and three respectively

The 51-year-old Cambridge reinsman, nicknamed ‘The Chief’, also steered the Telfer and Garlick trained Step Up to win the ninth event.

Telfer and Garlick won three races on the programme and took their season tally from 26 to 29 wins and in doing so moved into the top 10 on the national trainers premiership.

“Steve and Chris are great to drive for because they always have their team spot on. I also drove Check In to win for them two starts back at Cambridge. That’s three straight for him now.

“He had the draw (1) to work with tonight and I thought he might go close, but Cobra Banner’s win was a bit of a surprise, because he drew five and needed everything to go right so he could have one last go at them – and that’s exactly what happened,” said MacKinnon.

Four horses recorded sub two-minute mile-rates last night. The first came in the fourth event via the Frank Cooney/Tate Hopkins trained and Maurice McKendry driven Churchill Downs (1:58.8); Check In (1:57.0), Step Up (1:56.3) and the Brent Mangos trained and driven Maxim.

Mangos said he would decide in the next couple of days whether he would now take Maxim to Addington Raceway to contest the Group One $100,000 Easter Cup on Saturday week (April 15).

It was the 2014 Victoria Derby winner's eighth victory in 25 starts and took his career earnings to $421,511.

Several North Island drivers were plying their craft at the New Zealand Derby meeting at Addington Raceway last night which allowed MacKinnon and Butcher to make big moves on the Alexandra Park Driving Premierships.

Here’s how the ‘Top-5’ table stands (wins plus movers) after last night’s meeting:

Open Drivers:

1) David Butcher 20 to 24 wins; 2) Maurice McKendry 19 to 21; 3) Zac Butcher 19, 4) Brent Mangos 18 to 19; 5) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 18.

Junior Drivers:

1) Sean Grayling 8; 2) JackMacKinnon 4 to 6; 3) Robert Argue 2; 4) Dylan Ferguson 2; 5) Andrew Drake 1.


Duane Ranger


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